Intensive Outpatient Drug Rehab

What Happens in Intensive Outpatient Drug Rehab?

Outpatient rehab programs can be a highly effective treatment method for individuals with addiction. Cost of treatment can be lower than inpatient treatment options. Learn more about intensive outpatient programs and what happens to individuals who experience the programs.

The Basics

Programs vary in length of stay or expected active duration of intensive outpatient treatment. The programs may last anywhere from a few months to a year or longer. Many courses span 12-16 weeks before people step down to a less intensive stage of treatment. People may remain in maintenance phase of treatment for six months or longer.  Anywhere from six (6) to thirty (30) hours per week will be required for individuals in outpatient treatment programs.


Group work forms the core of most intensive outpatient programs which place individuals in different types of groups during treatment. Groups may include skills-development, support, interpersonal process groups or group counseling which focuses on balancing cost of expensive individual services with group support and dynamics. Typically 90 minutes in length, some may be shorter but generally the approach goes as follows:

  • Provide opportunities to develop communication skills and participate in socialization experiences (useful when socializing has revolved around drugs or alcohol)
  • Establish environment for support
  • Introduce structure and discipline into individual’s usually chaotic lives
  • Provide norms which reinforce healthful ways of interaction and engagement in a safe, supportive environment
  • Advancement of individual recovery
  • Provide venue for group leaders to transmit new info, teach new skills and guide people


Four stages of addiction treatment occur during an individual’s stay in intensive outpatient rehab. This includes:

Stage 1: Getting Started

A counselor will help identify problems with substance abuse in a person’s life and provide assessments for physical, psychological and social functioning. Rules and expectations will be reviewed.

Stage 2: Early Recovery

The stage is highly structured with educational activities, group involvement and new behaviors to help develop recovery skills, address lapses and build a substance-free lifestyle. Treatment is focused on individual, one-on-one counseling and group work.

Stage 3: Maintenance

Once stages 1 and 2 are completed, a person will ‘step down’ to outpatient treatment programs which demonstrates a commitment to change and stabilization. New groups will be formed with people who have similar interests and values. Goals of maintenance include:

  • Solidify abstinence
  • Practice relapse prevention skills
  • Improve emotional functioning
  • Broaden sober social network
  • Address other problem areas

Stage 4: Discharge to continuing care

An individualized and detailed discharge plan are worked up for continuation of recovery in community with available resources. The goal is to leave with a realistic plan for ongoing recovery.


Even though it is less expensive than inpatient rehab, outpatient care is expensive. Try the following tips to help pay for treatment:

  • Check health insurance. Find out what costs are involved (deductible and co-pays)
  • Look for sliding fee scale or reduced payment options  
  • Search for scholarships. Speak with community leaders, doctors and health services for help

If you or a loved one are seeking information on outpatient rehab programs, the Villa can help. We have resources and tools available to support your journey to recovery from addiction.